Chinese-owned oil firm Addax shuts offices after Swiss bribery case

GENEVA (Reuters) - Chinese-owned oil firm Addax Petroleum is shutting its offices in Geneva, Houston and Aberdeen, it said on Monday, a month after it agreed to pay 31 million Swiss francs ($31.85 million)to settle charges of suspected bribery of foreign officials.

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Confirming a report in the Tribune de Geneve newspaper, Addax said its parent firm Sinopec International Petroleum Exploration and Production Corporation (SIPC) would integrate the three offices into a new technical center in Beijing.

SIPC was streamlining its business model in response to low oil prices, the Addax statement said.

“This rationalization, designed to reduce management duplication, improve efficiency and secure long-term business sustainability, will see Addax Petroleum’s Geneva office integrated with SIPC’s headquarters in Beijing, and the Geneva office closed by the end of this year.”

Addax’s operating companies will start reporting directly to SIPC headquarters from August 9, and Addax will run a consultation process for its 174 affected staff in Geneva to mitigate the impact of the organization change, it said.

The newspaper said Geneva-based staff were informed of the closure on Monday afternoon.

Addax says on its website that it has more than 1,000 employees, and operations in Nigeria, Gabon and Cameroon, as well as joint ventures with Genel in Iraqi Kurdistan and with Repsol in the British North Sea.

Prosecutors for the Swiss canton of Geneva had investigated the company, whose chief executive officer and legal director were also charged, over several tens of millions of dollars in payments to a company and several lawyers in Nigeria.

A four-month investigation found the payments were not sufficiently documented and doubts remained on their legality, but no criminal intent was established, the prosecutor’s office said.

With that settlement, cases against the CEO and legal director were also closed, a spokesman for the prosecutor said at the time.

Reporting by Tom Miles. Editing by Jane Merriman